Snapshots: I Am Mother

Snapshots are extra short reviews. Everything you need to know, nothing you don’t. 

Forget Black Mirror Season 5 – if you want a compelling sci-fi drama on Netflix, look no further than I am Mother. The film is equal parts Ex Machina and Moon, in terms of production design, tight narrative structure, and an exploration of artificial intelligence that doesn’t resort to shootouts, sex, or scares to make its point. Not to mention it’s an all-female cast (ignoring the fact that the robot is technically played by a man in a suit).

The story is about Mother, a caretaker robot voiced terrifically by Rose Byrne. Mother raises a human daughter in an underground bunker, in an effort to repopulate the planet. Byrne gives an eerie performance as an AI who walks a fine line between innocuous and manipulative. It’s never quite clear what Mother’s intentions are, and just when you think you know whether she’s ‘evil’ or not, she does something to completely flip your perspective. And thus, our experience mirrors that of the human daughter (Clara Rugaard): with no other frame of reference, and no other humans to interact with, her relationship with Mother is pushed to its limit as she struggles to understand the machine’s motivations.

To be fair, plenty of movies are about humans not trusting robots – and if that dynamic were the plot of the movie, it would feel overdone. Thankfully, there’s much more to the story, which I won’t spoil here. For the casual viewer, there are some nice twists along the way. For the observant viewer, the twists aren’t surprising, but the director doesn’t draw much attention to them either (unlike, say, Black Mirror). In all, the focus is less on taking a sci-fi adventure, more on creating a sci-fi atmosphere – definitely better than watching two straight guys have sex in VR (unlike, say, Black Mirror).